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Tuesday, 2022-08-09

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The Hand Brush

The Austrian angler and fly tier Hans Graf introduced me to this deer hair pattern, developed in the early years after the second world war. It represents mayflies as well as big sedges. In it's bigger sizes it is a good spinner imitation during the mayfly season; divide the deer hair wing with a couple of figure of eight turns if you like an exact imitation, but it is not really necessary. The deer hair guarantees a good buoyancy, which is usually a problem with dry flies of this size.
After adapting the body-and hackle colours to local peculiarities, this pattern does a very good job wherever the big dry fly is needed.


The original hook was 4 x long, size 10, but every long-shank, not to heavy will do.

Thread - black
Tail - three fibres of pheasant's tail feather
Body - greenish yellow wool or seal's fur ( colours depending on original to be
imitated )
Ribbing - flat gold
Hackle - light to medium brown hen, palmer style, turns well separated
Wing - bunch of deer hair

The Handbrush

Even Dry

The River Gacka is one of the most perfect chalk-steams the former Yugoslavia had to offer the angler. Gin-clear water is pressed out of the mountain, 20 meters wide, 3 to 5 deep it flows through a picturesque plateau near Otocac, Croatia. It is an intermittent river: after 9 or 10 kilometres it just vanishes, simply seeps away in a meadow.
Fish grow big here in no time, lots of food and an almost constant water temperature of 13,2 C are perfect conditions for any trout. Home of the monster trouts the river was called and a four or five pounder was nothing unusual.
But they are not easy to catch. After the mayfly season is over, they tend to lie deep and it is not that easy getting a nymph in strong currants three meters or so down.
After two rather unsuccessful angling holidays at the Gacka, each in July, I decided to try it in May.
During the first couple of days I managed to catch a couple of rainbows, between 35 and 55 cm long, on heavy nymphs, even a brown trout of over 50 cm I managed to outwit. But nothing happened on my dry flies, though lots of natural mayflies were hatching and the fish went like mad for them.
At the bar in the Gacka Hotel, there was this angler from Vienna, Hans Graf, who claimed he could get them on a dry fly, no problem at all, he said after a few glasses, I love when they do zzapp, and he made slurping noises, like trout taking flies from the surface.
Here is a case I thought and didn't even bother to ask him what sort of a fly he was using.
Surely the next day saw me standing at the river trying to catch a fish on a dry fly, but all my patterns were just wrong: to small, wrong colours, wrong proportions and just before changing back to the proven nymph; there stood this angler from Vienna beside me, I love when they do zzapp, and made his noise, but they are a bit fussy today.
Then he showed me his dry fly.

This is disgusting, I'm off was my first impulse after looking at this monstrous thing: over 3 cm long, a hellova body hackle and a thick bunch of some sort of hair at the top. Oh dear, what a hand brush!
That is a streamer and no dry fly, this bloke wants to mock me. As if having heard my thoughts, he unfolded his line with a few swings; and this thing swam, looked exactly like a mayfly!
Since that moment I have always looked at new flies open minded and with more inner tolerance.
That evening, at the hotel bar, Hans Graf gave me some deer hair and a few of those extra long, light hooks: I love when they do zzapp, and he made slurping noises, like trout taking flies from the surface.